UnitedHealthcare rolls out new member reward program with focus on wellness

UnitedHealthcare is rolling out a new wearables-based rewards program for members and their spouses.

In UnitedHealthcare Rewards, eligible members can earn up to $1,000 per year by using wearable devices to complete health goals and activities, the insurance giant announced Wednesday. For example, a member could use their activity tracker, smartwatch or smartphone to log their sleep or daily exercise, earning credit toward the rewards program, UnitedHealthcare said.

Members can choose from multiple wearable options, including products from the "world's leading device makers," the insurer said, and can apply rewards to an existing health savings account or onto a prepaid debit card.

“UnitedHealthcare Rewards is a more modern approach to employer-sponsored well-being programs, leveraging gamification elements and giving members the opportunity to earn incentives for any number of activities that may promote health,” said Brandon Cuevas, chief growth officer of UnitedHealthcare, in the announcement. “UnitedHealthcare Rewards can be a key step in helping more of our members get and stay healthy, prevent or more effectively manage chronic conditions and, ultimately, make health care more affordable for individuals and employers.”

Most employers offer some kind of wellness program or incentives to complete health activities, but getting employees to engage with them remains a challenge. A 2021 analysis from Gartner HR Research found that 90% of employers have a well-being program in place, but just 23% use them.

UnitedHealthcare said it designed the new rewards program with the goal of breaking through to those more hesitant plan members, getting them onboard by integrating directly into its member app and offering simple, daily activities that count toward the rewards. UnitedHealthcare Rewards also uses "a broad definition of wellness and incentives" to drive people toward activities that can benefit their health, the company said.

One-time activities members can complete include taking 5,000 steps in one day, tracking sleep for 14 nights, getting a biometric screening or choosing paperless billing.

The program is now available to some of UnitedHealthcare's fully insured employers, with plans to offer it to all fully insured plans by the end of the year. The insurer said it will make UnitedHealthcare Rewards available to self-funded employers in 2024.